Saturday, April 14, 2012

Toshiba Portege Z835 Ultrabook Laptop Review

Toshiba Portege Z835 Ultrabook Laptop Review

Utrabook laptops have been around for a while now, and laptop makers have had a little time to get their act together. Now, virtually every major laptop brand has its own take on the super-light and super-thin category. Toshiba’s take, the Portege Z835, aims to give consumers the best value for their money. At $ 800 from Best Buy, it is currently one of the least expensive ultrabooks available. Has Toshiba cut corners to arrive at such an affordable price point? Read on to find out!

Let’s take a tour around the Z835. The lid sports a chrome Toshiba logo. On the keyboard deck reside a power button, a button that launches the Toshiba Eco Utility, and a button that launches the Intel Wi-Di software. A button that turns the touchpad on and off is below the space bar. Personally, I would appreciate the cleaner look of a few less buttons, but that is a minor nitpick.

Toshiba has not done anything particularly unique or inspiring with its ultrabook. Closed, it looks like.....a regular (albeit skinny) laptop. The overall impression is kinda...bland. The body is grey, with a few chrome accents. On the plus side, the finish doesn’t pick up finger prints!

Seven small lights are below the trackpad. These light up to indicate that the battery is low, the Eco utility is on, etc.

Moving on to overall feel, the Portege feels less luxurious than the Lenovo U300s. At this price point, that can be understood. The body seems to be well built, but the screen hinge seems less sturdy than could be desired.

I’ve been a little hard on the Z835’s design, but there is one area where it totally blows away the competition: weight. Is 2.47 pounds light enough for ya? For comparison, the 13 inch MacBook Air weighs 2.96. So there, Apple. :) What about thickness? The Portege is .63 inches at its thickest, compared to the Air’s .68 inches measurement.

Most of the Portege's ports are on the back of the laptop.

The Portege Z830 takes practicality seriously. It has a Swiss army knife’s selection of ports: an SD slot (Hallelujah!), one USB 3.0 port, one Ethernet port, two USB ports, one HDMI port, one RGB port, headphones port, and a microphone port. With all these ports, this machine is quite well suited to being a business person’s companion.


The perfect ultrabook display has yet to be found- at least it is not on this machine. The screen is quite reflective. When I sat with my back to a bright window, I had to either crank up the screen brightness or find a different seat in order to see the screen. The screen is also best viewed at a specific angle- partly due to reflections and partly due to the colors “wacking out” at angles not close to straight-on.


Since the thinness of ultrabooks does not leave a lot of depth for keyboards, many models have suffered from shallow or otherwise imperfect keyboards. Unfortunately, the Toshiba’s keyboard is not an exception. It is not terrible, but not exactly comfortable, either. After typing this review, (over 1,000 words) I have decided it feel shallower than the Lenovo U300s I reviewed. It seems I have also been making more keyboard-related spelling errors, also. Otherwise, the keys seem well-spaced and fairly well-sized.

However, this keyboard does sport a backlight! You may now type in the dark, all you business users.


The plastic trackpad on the Z830 is workable. It does not have the nice texture that glass touchpads have, but it performs well. Two- and one-finger scrolling is a breeze with this trackpad. Pinch-to-zoom seems to work fairly well. The fact that it works better in some programs is mainly due to software, I think.

The right and left click buttons are not perfect. They seem to slope off on the edges and do not have the best tactile clicking feel. They get the job done, though.


The Toshiba’s speakers are quite average. They put out more bass than I expected, but the highs and middle tones do not sound balanced. For everyday work, they will suffice. For listening to music, get a pair of headphones.

Performance and Specs

First, let’s take a look at the specifications of this Toshiba. It has a Intel® Core i3-2367M dual-core processor clocked at 1.4 Ghz, 4 GB of RAM, and a128 GB solid state drive. It runs the 64-bit version of Windows Home Premium. In plain English, it is one of the less powerful ultrabooks available, but will certainly get the job done.

How does the Portege Z835 actually perform in real world situations? Although it feels a little less zippy than the other ultrabook I have tested, it is still certainly a capable machine. Even after piling on the open programs, it would not lag, slow down, or turn up the fan. (Incidentally, the fan is quite loud all the time, no matter how many programs are open.)

In my very unscientific testing, I found that boot-up time is around 24 seconds, and resuming from sleep is about nine seconds.


Toshiba included an abundance of software with the Z835. Here are some of the major ones: TOSHIBA eco Utility™, TOSHIBA Face Recognition, TOSHIBA PC Health Monitor, TOSHIBA Media Controller, Intel® Wireless Display Technology (WiDi 2.1), TOSHIBA Web Camera Application, TOSHIBA Recovery Disk Creator, TOSHIBA Service Station, Norton Internet Security™ 2012 (30-day trial), Toshiba Online Backup (30-day trial subscription), TOSHIBA Sleep Utility, and the Best Buy PC app. The Norton Internet Security Free Trial and Best Buy PC app tend to get in your face a lot and are put there to make money, not to add value. However, the eco Utility and Recovery Disk Creator have practical merit.

Battery Life

This ultrabook seems to have excellent battery life. Through my unscientific testing routine of web browsing, watching videos, listening to music, and writing news posts and reviews, the battery lasted a little over six hours. This is fairly average for an ultrabook, although it is better than some other ultrabooks.


As with regular laptops, ultrabooks come in expensive and reasonable versions. Machines like the previously reviewed Lenovo IdeaPad U300s and the Air are more luxurious varieties. Toshiba’s ultrabook is aimed at people looking to get the most for their money. Toshiba is not the only manufacturer with this audience in mind, however. HP’s ultrabook, the Folio, offers boosted specs and additional battery life for an extra $ 100. On the other hand, the Folio is one of the heaviest ultrabooks, at 3.3 pounds. Assuming that you have decided that a less expensive ultrabook is for you, the decision between the Folio and the Portege is a personal choice.

Product Info

MSRP:$ 899.99
    Inexpensive, lightest ultrabook available, lots of ports, back lit keyboard, decent performance and battery life
  • Unimaginative design, limited viewing angles, keyboard could be more comfortable

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